ZEKE WILSON: Opening day a mixed bag
The amount of lead thrown on Saturday was impressive as trout anglers attempted to find the bottom. Where I was fishing, chances were that if you weren’t using more weight than what most ultra-lite rigs are rated for, you weren’t catching fish.
Most of the larger streams such as Tionesta, Red Bank and Little Mahoning were not fishable due to high-water conditions. However, the opening-day tradition had many along the banks at 8 a.m. looking for anything from a bite to a limit.
After looking closely at all of the streams on the way to camp, I decided to focus on the upper end of a tributary in hopes of finding better conditions. The 20-foot-wide stream was clear enough, but the force of the flow was intimidating, even when only wading in knee-deep water.
In the few pockets that offered a break from the current, I managed to find brook trout that readily chased a minnow. The first fish of the day had wrapped me up twice before I realized I had been casting across a submerged tree limb.
In the faster water I attempted to fish the pools, but with so much split-shot, losing rigs was common. In the mile stretch that I fished downstream, I managed three brook trout and a fine-looking brown trout that had the coloration and fins to indicate that it had either carried over or hatched there. It was only 7 or so inches, and I had to admire it and then release it in hopes of itsurviving.
Just weeks prior, the stream had been loaded with fish, and from what I could see they appeared to have been washed downstream. At the first actual hole I reached, several anglers had trout on their stringer, but no one was hammering them. With a 40-degree water temperature, trout were willing to bite, but many were either hiding or swimming downstream.
Further downstream several friends enjoyed success, with a few even finding the larger uprooted trees that offered hiding for many of the fish from upstream.
Despite the conditions, it was surprising to see the amount of anglers, although quite a few gave up early, and with good reason. Luckily my dad had picked me up another pack of split shot, although he was the one that told me growing up that “if you weren’t getting snags you weren’t catching trout.”
By 4 p.m. I had managed to catch seven trout, which after deducting lunch at camp, averaged out to be a trout an hour. While I did not keep track of my snags, it had to have been three or four an hour as I continued to fish into new water while casting into the unknown. The decision to quit was not based on poor fishing but from cold hands and being tired of tying on new gear.
In my younger years I would always hope for such opening-day conditions because it would lead to better fishing in the weeks to come. With in-season stocking now under way, many of the streams are still too high to fish. Many trout will remain in the approved waters in which they were stocked and continue to offer fishing well into the summer.
Otters, unfortunately, can quickly mess up the fishing and will work a hole, killing until the remaining trout have no choice but to flee. It is hoped in the next few years a season will be established as the signs along the streams and accidental catches continue to increase.